Editor Tim Bousquet’s note: I’m increasingly uncomfortable with this article. It relies on one source — the article by Elissa Barnard in the Local Xpress — and I’m not sure how reliable that is. I’ve been contacted by several people who tell me that the decision to film in Newfoundland was made previous to the cut in the film tax credit. I’ve attempted to speak with the producer of Maudie, but she hasn’t yet returned my calls.
The decision to publish was mine, and I bear responsibility for inaccuracies and mistakes. I should have held it back until I could fact-check the reporter. My apologies.
Can any political leader be trusted not to break promises made in the heat of an election campaign? That was the overriding theme during last night’s lively 90-minute roundtable discussion with moderator Steve Murphy on CTV.
Like a bad sequel, the changes the McNeil Liberals made to the film tax credit in the spring of 2014 surfaced again as an example of broken trust.
Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie asked Liberal leader Stephen McNeil if he wasn’t “bothered” that his government had abruptly slashed funding to film and TV producers in the 2014 budget after promising during the 2013 election campaign to expand the tax credit? Host Steve Murphy wanted to know if he regretted the decision that resulted in Maudie —the hit movie based on the life of Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis — was filmed in Newfoundland and Ireland instead of the province where she lived and worked?
“Maudie left before we changed that policy,” said Stephen McNeil. “Look it up.”
I did look it up, in part because everyone who has seen Maudie loves the film and feels a kinship that is tarnished by the fact the location is not authentic to her rural Nova Scotia roots. I also worried that what the Liberal leader had said might, like the movie itself, be a fictional version of a harsher truth.
I started with Wikipedia (who doesn’t) and there it was:
The film was shot in Ireland and Newfoundland rather than Nova Scotia, where Lewis painted, after the Nova Scotia government reduced its film credit program”.
The references lead to an April 11,2017 article by Elissa Barnard in the Local Xpress, the online newspaper put out by Chronicle Herald journalists who have now been on strike 16 months, with no end in sight. Barnard, a veteran entertainment writer, interviewed Aisling Walsh, the director of Maudie. Here’s part of what Barnard reported on April 11:
Long before shooting Maudie, director Aisling Walsh sat in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia staring at Maud Lewis’s tiny, painted house.
“The first time I saw it I was really moved,” she said in a phone interview from her London, England, home. “For me that’s her greatest work of art and it is a life of art on those four walls. It’s amazing.”
Starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, Maudie is the fictional story of the love that grows between the charming, feisty Maud and the churlish Everett Lewis and the artist’s life as a painter.
A Canada-Ireland co-production, it was written by Newfoundland’s Sherry White and shot in Newfoundland in a little house by the side of the road mimicking Maud’s enchanting, roadside house in Marshalltown outside Digby.
Maudie, opening Friday in Halifax, could not be shot in Nova Scotia because “the industry was in collapse” after the Liberals cut the film tax credit, Walsh said.
Maudie was filmed in Newfoundland and Ireland in the summer of 2015 with financial assistance from the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. That’s the same year film production virtually ground to a halt in Nova Scotia as production crews left for work in Toronto and B.C. amid the uncertainty created by the sudden shift in the film financing landscape. By 2016, the industry (after much consultation and public uproar) had rebounded on the strength of a new and equally generous TV and Film Production Fund and a low Canadian dollar.
Since its April 17 release, Maudie has played to packed houses in Atlantic Canada and has earned more than a million dollars at the Canadian box office. It opens in the United States June 17 and will be shown in Europe, the U.K. and Japan later this year.
Try hard not to think how much more the movie could have done to promote tourism in the Nova Scotia had the fabulous coastal scenery standing in for Digby County actually been Digby County, and had the credits rolling across the screen been for Nova Scotia instead of Newfoundland and Ireland.
And try hard not to think about why Stephen McNeil gave the answer he did.